Chinese developing C-17 clone

The Chinese military confirmed that it is developing a large transport aircraft.

The announcement comes after blurry photos leaked onto aviation forums on Christmas Eve. The photos were taken at Xian Aircraft Corporation’s airfield. As Danger Room pointed out earlier, the photos show an aircraft that looks a heck of a lot like the U.S. Air Force’s C-17.

The aircraft features four jet engines and looks to be the same size as the C-17 albeit the blurry photos make it tough to discern too many details. Following questions about the plane the Chinese issued this statement:

“To meet the needs of the national economy and social development, and in the service of military modernization, better disaster relief, humanitarian relief and other emergency tasks, our country is developing a large transport aircraft,” the statement read.

Designated the Y-20, the photos, it has been suspected for years that the Chinese have been working on developing an aircraft similar to the C-17. In order for their military to continue to grow into a global power, it needs a transport workhorse similar to the U.S. Air Force’s C-17.

It appears from the photos, the Chinese are well on their way.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Lance

    Not surprised they copy almost everyone’s designs. IE J-7 copy of Russian MiG-21, J-31 copy of F-35, Type-59 Tanks Russian T-55 copy.

    China rarely gets there own ideas they love to copy them.

  • whoaa

    Hey, if it works why fix it lol.

  • Kole

    Well, seems that they are pretty late to the party when it comes to transport aircraft… then again, they are late to everything…

  • EW3

    I’m sure there are those on this site that will say it’s stealthy /sarc

    • Jeff

      No, but it is sarc, and Stealthy, got that from my sources inside the Chicom Government.

  • RunningBear

    How close is the copy of the C-17, is it more of a C-17A or did they go for the improved but never built C-17B? Does this indicate that they only build the production versions?

    Happy New Year! :)

  • marc27

    only the exterior looks like the c17 the interior components are total crap just like everything the chinese domestically built. even the russians said in a statement that the chinese copy of the su27 is total crap that would never be as powerful as their version.

    • Yoda

      Yeah, sure that everything good is in north american, and the rest of the world just copy them and make junk. how much arrogance. Mmm, I think the Chinese invented gunpowder, they do not turn out so bad, right? And all copied him and use that invention, including the United States … as copied and / or have appropriated many other inventions and things that worked. But do not say any of that.

      • Matt

        Well modern gun powder is more of a “copy” of French smokeless powder, if anything.

        And there’s a big difference between a technology invented hundreds of years ago spreading around the world and a gov/corporation blatantly copying copyrighted foreign designs (not saying its defiantly the case here, just that it’s China’s usually tactic).

  • Sir Sapo

    While the Chinese dont seem too shy about blatantly copying designs, I think this is more a case of form following function. There’s a reason nearly every large military transport has the same basic layout, and that reason is because there isn’t really a better way to do it. Lockheed had it figured out with the C-141, 50 years ago…

    • lcarman

      You got that right – after over 6,000 hours as a Loadmaster on the C-141, I can say the old girl was some fine aircraft.

  • redordead

    more importantly, they have the money and/or are willing to spend it on a bewildering number of military designs.

  • matt

    looks more like a larger version of Embraer KC-390

    • Yoda

      Yes! or the older Ilyushin 78 “midas”. But ome people still says its a C17 copy. jajaja!!!
      The Ilyushin 76 “Candid”, too.

  • Benjamin

    What I would look at is how powerful the engines are. A transport that size would need an engine bigger then what is on the IL-76. Engines have been the achilles heel of the Chinese so far.

    • Tom

      You can tell from the diameter of the engines on this thing they are not up to Western standards in jet engine technology.

    • Bill Huang

      I think the production version will be installed with the WS-20 engine as tests run by.

    • El Guapo

      They will probably just buy large Turbofans from Airbus, as Airbus signed a coop agreement with China for coop on a turboprop transport similar to, but slightly smaller, than the A-400 Grizzly.

  • jack

    Chinese haven’t developed anything on their own since fireworks.

  • This will allow then to fly troops quickly to every spot in their country where they are oppressing minority groups….
    Soon they will have as many white elephants as we do and we will start buying their government issued bonds…..

  • mi1400

    If it would have been some other countries … all patent trolls and legal battles would have been waged on that country … if some powerful country is doing that … US etc just bad mouth, moan and groan .. nothing else. ….

    • Ranger1989


  • metfan lou

    Heck they have billions of our bonds, just use the m oney to buy them from us. Sounds just too easy.



    • charlie g

      I second that, but it has to be a really big one.

      • Mike

        Ah but that will entail stealing of the Imperial plans… and Leia and the Bothan’s have already done that :-)

  • Jimmy J

    HHH – “Thanks Unions”

    Wake up, the problem today is “CORPORATE GREED” in the Board Room, not Lunch Bucket Joe who needs two incomes to survive in this world !!!!

    • William_C1

      But when union bosses are greedy and corrupt as they are in too many unions it certainly isn’t helping matters at all.

    • Belesari

      Yet the difference between the average Chinese worker and their bosses is far worse. Yet they are getting the jobs? So its not that. In addition jobs are being shipped to non union states and are doing great. So why is it everywhere the unions rule there is economic trouble worse than that in non union controled?

    • Tinkersdam

      Hard to take that seriously with Detroit union workers making upwards of 100K/yr to do a job that should pay minimum wage.

      • blight_

        Which jobs would those be? I-banker at Ally Bank?

    • You’ve mistaken workers for unions. They are separate entities, with one existing as a parasitic growth upon the other.

    • Matt

      If the average union’s goal was to actually help works, then they wouldn’t be so nervous every time a state gov. decides that they can’t /force/ workers to join. Union’s have a purpose, but far too many union bosses have done exactly what too many corporate bosses do when they can’t stay competitive (jump in bed with big gov.)…

  • Taylor

    When it comes to military equipment, stealing the enemy’s designs is fair game. If we are stupid enough to let them do it, shame on us. The Chinese seem to be pretty smart people except that they don’t seem to be able to master freedom and goodness so far. That takes an advanced civilization. They do have a Christian underground that probably gets those concepts.

  • TonyC

    China is determined to match the West and Russia in military capabilities. Then they will invade Taiwan knowing the US will not be able to stop them. These transports are meant for taking troops to Taipei, not humanitarian relief. Once they have subdued Taiwan, then they will turn their attention to other areas.

    • rome

      well they already trying too claim even the south china aka west philippine sea and even try to bully every country beside that sea and so i blame Nixon going there in the first place when the are very very poor. and give them the WTO member of UN. Now they even challenging the USA now. they back stabber, china!!!!

    • Riceball

      I don’t think that China has any plans to ever invade Taiwan unless they absolutely have to. With all of the business that they do with Taiwan there’s no need to invade them so long as no one there gets stupid and declares Taiwan to be an independent and sovereign state and not a part of China,

  • rich

    First an aircraft carrier, then a F-22 clone on steroids, now a long range heavy lift cargo jet. China is developing the tools she needs to have an offensive capability far beyond the first island chain. I wonder when amphibs in the US style will be launched? I’d think Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan would start getting nervous about their future in about 10 years. Not that China intends on invading but that China could overwhelm them in short order, if she had a mind too. In the case of Australia, China could cut off air and sea lanes with the US, something the Japanese attempted in 1942.

  • Alex

    Looks like a C-17? Really DT?

    Looks far more like an Antonov/Ilyushin influenced design than anything else.

    Of all the defense sites I regularly peruse, DT is definitely closest to the tabloid mag of the industry.

  • George

    And we are going to close down the production line because we have “enough” C-17’s. Amazing.

    • Juuso

      Transport aircraft gap! US of A must build at least 500 C-17 to close it.

  • Gen. King

    The Y-20 is about 80% of C-17 in size and weight. Its “wing-above-fuselage” design is totally different from C-17’s “wing-through-fuselage” design. Antonov claims they have contributed to the design. Y-20 really looks kind like an enlarged An-70, albeit with a T tail instead of a conventional tail.

  • Nicky

    Looks like the Chinese copied parts of the C-17 and parts of the A-400 Atlas to come up with a Cloned version of the two.

    • Yoda

      Defense Tech Note: I extend my comment for you also read it, and become informed before waving nationalism, ignorant comments to people who do not read or reported.
      Tabloids seem

    • El Guapo

      The A-400 is the “Grizzly” not the “Atlas”.

  • johnvarry

    A former Boeing employee was convicted in June 2009 of selling technical info on the C-17 to China. The C-17 data may have influenced the design but its not a direct copy, The dimensions are all slightly smaller.

  • karl johnson

    That is what happens when you let Boeing operate in China. Just like Apple and any other technology company.
    As well as allowing export to/importation in of anything.
    They copy it, they pay no royalty fees to copywright/trademark/tradedress/registered owners.


    So why are we still putting up factories in china???? We are just feeding their people, their economy, their war machine! If we need cheap labor, why not set up in countries which we are aligned to and who needs our help. If we move out of china and our allies follow, the chinese economy will burst!

  • Reverend Clint

    it looks more like an AN than anything western other than it has wings and round fuselage.

  • Stan

    Since no one bothered to do this here is a simple search result showing images of Il-76, An-124, and An-225 among others.

    Feel free to do the same for American planes. Sometimes a cigar is just because you want to have a big smoke you can hold in your hand.

  • It looks nothing like the C-17 to me.

  • The Chinese never said it was a clone of the C-17.

  • John Gardner

    As usual, this transport is going to be another piece of junk that the Chinese have fabricated, God forbid we ‘ll have to buy them so as to pay off our debt to them.

  • Dfens

    Oh no, it will take us 30 years and untold billions of dollars to come up with a new cargo jet. And even then we will outsource most of it to China, because it’s not like we have any factories in this country that can build a military airplane anymore.

  • Raptor Leader

    C-17 has been in service since the 1990s. The Chicoms are late as usual. Looks more Russian than American. By the time it is in production the C-17s will be super ceded by its replacement. China, a land of copiers not innovators.

  • NeoconBrony

    No biggie, by the time they’re ready for mass production, we’ll probably have a blended wing body replacement for the C-17.

  • blight_

    Mimicking aerodynamic shapes is the most sincere form of flattery, but without FEA and generating the model yourself in testing, a model derived from pictures and guesswork won’t be very good.

    If you have cad files corresponding to aircraft shape, then it gets more interesting; but I would assume that shaping assumes many other factors remain the same: weight distribution, engine profile, material of construction. If they’re not the same, the same benefits won’t be derived from exact mimicry of the shape.

    If they’re using the C-17 as a starting point and adjusting the design based on their materials construction capability, available engines, avionics and geopolitical needs of the aircraft, more power to them. Are their engines better than the export-grade engines that will go out with American or Russian aircraft?

  • blight_
  • just face it USA, your country is not going to last as the world leader. China will dominate Asia and then Europe and later USA. We can be proud later for our status soon. It is our destiny for country, the “Middle Kingdom”. I know countries are worried but you have to know that China is peaceful and friendly. bye bye USA

    • Mike

      Up yours…..

    • Mike

      China… peaceful… friendly…

      Heres another three little words for you:

      Tienanmen… Square… Massacre…

      Sort of sums up the Government of the Middle Kingdom.



    • cs4

      They see themselves as the top dog, everyone else is the challenger despite being saddled with illnesses.

    • Dfens

      If you think the biggest threat to your freedoms are domestic, then you’re completely out of touch with reality.

  • Jeff

    The Chinese are Copiers! We send drawings and spec’s to them daily and they make the parts or products and ship them to us to sell in our stores. Whats the difference here they took a picture and copied it. They are just doing what they are good at.!

  • dee

    The electronic components have been made over their for years – I realize this doesn’t include the software but that was acquired through hacking……..

    Doesn’t Boeing have a plant making aircraft components in China?

    All our puzzle pieces have been laying on the table for someone else to assemble. We cannot be shocked when another country does it.

  • Halfbreed citizen99

    So what’s so surprizing??? They will copy anything they can; and will get away with it; because not a single country will challenge them; and even if they did

  • EricX

    Will we see it sell at WalMart?

  • tony

    let them be.they don`t have the tech.

  • carl baumann

    maybe we should get rid of them now before its to late, if we dont get them, they’ll get us.

  • Adam Majkowski

    Transport aircraft are the only ones worth building. To transport supplies to people in need and transport people away from natural disaster areas. Too bad when our country gets attacked by itself or a natural disaster we have no response from our worthless military. I wonder if China leaves it’s people to die after a hurricane like we do.


    The US Government should consider selling the C-17 production line to China like Russia did with it’s TU-22 bomber especially as the US doesn’t plan on buying more C-17s and the aircraft like is scheduled to close; China can deduct the cost from the $4-Trillion that the US will be adding to the National Debt.

  • FlyBoy

    In our free society this is why we, as a nation, have to spend three times the cost to stay a couple of years ahead of the technology we make available to the rest of the world! Years ago the Russian’s used OUR Freedom of Information Act to obtain plans to the C-5, the Chinese probably did the same. Go figure.

  • vrns

    i think this flying postbox have a similarity to An-70 too. but i think to spare some dev time, it’s not cheating to copy layout from a sucessful plane , btw all fliyng postboxes are have similarity, because to reach the best cargo roomshape, every big cargo plane must have this elliptic tube form:)

  • Tanko

    We cannot forget they showed interest in the defunct An-70!!!!

  • Valbonne

    Chinese Y-20 took inspiration from Russian IIyushin II-76 because they have been fly them for years. Russian engineers were said to be behind some of the design work. I hope nobody will get paranoia about this.

  • Paul








  • Woody

    Yea so what if they build a bad copy of America planes or whatever, their stuff is crap…well, most of it….how’s that old Russian carrier workin’ out for them?….and that supposed “stealth” fighter?…..not a single original thought in that entire overpopulated country…..idiots…

  • Charles

    What kind of spy plane was it that collided with the Chinese jet and ended up landing in China intact. The Chinese copied every single part by dismantling it a piece at a time and that is how we got it back.

    • Dfens

      That was a P-3. It’s so old, no one would want to copy it.

      • blight_

        It was an EP-3 with semi-modern surveillance gear. We could care less about the aircraft, but the real question is what was learned from the equipment; even if the airmen had enough time to trash and destroy everything (unlike the Pueblo, the aircraft was not over-run, but was simply unable to leave due to mechanical issues.

  • eprida

    President Clinton gave the 3D tools mechanics, F-16, WQ-89, XB-70 Walkiria, submarines, torpedoes, all they need to make the World in Red. Now, they are doing the same to destroy USA. Iran, Russia, Cuba and Venezuela are developing Biological and Chemical Weapons, DoD nothing do against them.
    Chinese had very good skill to spy technology and I ask where is the FBI, no one China’s spy in electric chair sit. Still the China are 25 five years back and they never will be reach the our metallurgy and electronic develop to do the same thing, remember the weight and the strength need to play an important role in the design, the Russian Weapons has the same problem, it never result in good stuff.

    • blight_

      I stopped taking you seriously at “WQ-89” and “Walkiria”. Pretty sure it was the failed XB-70 Valkyrie, which was designed before modern Computer Aided Design.

      Would you like to play again? (Y/N)

    • eprida

      Please, search for the Start’s Report in 630 pages you will read a lot of gift from Mr.Clinton to China in high technology. The document was written by the US Attorney.

  • KbarMike
  • Guest

    Let’s not underestimate them. Their super carriers are formidable. They are allowed to attend our most prestigous universities in america. They are as smart as our engineers. Let’s be careful so that we ourselves keep technologically advanced ahead of them. However, with declining military budgets, we won’t be able to do that. World super powered threats should not be taken lightly. We should not weaken our military by to many budget cuts. The enemy is waiting to take advantage of that.

    • blight_

      What super carrier?

      *nobody* builds supercarriers except the United States. Even the marine amphibious carriers are large enough to be carriers in the fleets of other nations navies.

      The Liaoning is an old Kiev-class aviation cruiser stripped of its forward armaments turned into a complete flight deck. If you think that makes it a “super carrier”, I have some Japanese helicopter destroyers and Korean gator ships for you…

  • Benjamin

    I am thinking that this is not a production design. Being that the engines are what is on the IL-76 and this is a larger plane there is going to be weight issues. This is also the first transport plane built by the Chinese. If they were going to install new engines there would have to be major work done to the pylons.
    Since it isthe first time China has developed a transport plane, I would use a prototype to determine exactly what size i want the plane to be for what it is supposed to transport. If you want to transport tanks you need more room then say a Humvee.
    I see a lot of changes being done to this design beyond the engines if it was a production model.

  • Simple Man

    Was at the military museum in Beijing where they had their own copy of the Hummer on display. Pretty sad.

    • El Guapo

      Was at the Patton museum at Ft. Knox, KY. They had the American copy of the 1972 proposed Italian IVECO Light Military Transport. I think the copy was called a Hummer.

  • El Guapo

    Wow, everybody is conditioned to view somebody as the anti-American Boogie Man. Since we were at conflict with each other in Korea in the 1950, how many military interventions, police actions, and out right wars have the Chinese participated in?
    How many has the USA participated in, financed and even instigated? I’m retired Army(ISA) and have deployed to atleast 54 countries for operations that have absolutely nothing to the defense of the United States.
    China attack Australia? Hopefully not on the Gold Coast, as a assault woud kill tens of thousands of Chinese tourists.

    • Valbonne

      Generally Chinese are not anti-American at all and one can see lots of Chinese believes in “American Dream” by the increase of large numbers of Chinese immigrants to America. American mass-media has created the view that Chinese are anti-American Boogie Man in order to increase ‘American Government Defense Spending’.

      • Benjamin

        They may not be anti-american but they are very anti-Japanese (borderline racist) and Fillipino. Both are U.S. allies. They also hate the Vietnamese and Indian.

        • crackedlenses

          I don’t blame them for hating the Japanese; as for the others it sounds like just plain hatred of those not like them.

  • Chinese are smart people, they not only copy the ideas, they make the ideas more glittering and shiny the always keep their self one step ahead of other powers.
    They not make advancements only in the military area, they much more concentrate on their economic growth more than their military, and the example is their latest treaty with Pakistan to get total control of the Gawadar deep seaport.

  • I always feel good to hear about the successful advancement in field of technology by any country of the world because this advancement in technology triggers a competition in the field which results in advancement of our world.

  • This opening can be tightly sealed to prevent any water seepibg into cabin. The function to lower the spinnaker is to on skippers instruction;
    un-jam the spinnaker halyard and release the spinnaker sheets in a controlled manner, then pulling
    in on the down haul which will allow the spinnaker to collapse down into the spinnaker
    chute until fully stowed and jammed off. It is the horizontal structural,
    support for the mast.

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  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on air. Regards